Easy Ways to Dress Up Yogurt for Babies (Adults Too!)

Hello Everyone!

Baby yogurt. Best thing ever.  It’s easy, nutritious and always available. Best of all, Ela loves the stuff.  When my harried self is at a loss (or just too exhausted) for lunch or snack ideas a little container of yogurt comes to our rescue.  Not only Ela, but Kirina and even myself slurp down cooling yogurt in one form or another (Kirina has moved onto yogurt tubes, me, I sort of indulge in a few bites of Ela’s yogurt.  The years of buying creamy, whole-milk yogurt are fleeting and I must take advantage!  It’s so much tastier than the adult, boring, low-fat stuff.  Sigh.  I love dairy fat.  The fat does not love me back).

Whole milk yogurt doesn’t always come in lots of flavors. Yes, there are the pre-made baby yogurt containers, but Ela grew weary of those week after week….after week…after, um week (two kids equals chaos.  which equals a heavy reliance on yogurt containers).  Our wallet also grew weary.  Mommy had to think fast! I tried this:

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Whole milk yogurt.  Plain.  Creamy.  Organic.  Yum, right?  I got this in response:

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More of a yuck than a yum.

I can’t blame her.  It’s not like I sit around eating plain yogurt either. I eat it with fresh fruit, a spoonful of jam, even a sprinkling of ground cardamom.

Think of yogurt as a blank canvas for you to decorate with fun flavors. Not only are you creating variety for your little one, but you are also training their taste buds to appreciate new tastes.  Here’s a combo Ela appreciated:

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Kiwi, mango and cardamom.

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The kiwi was fresh and the mango frozen (frozen fruits are a wonderful thing to have on hand!  Especially for out-of-season fruits).  I ground up the cardamom, just a pinch, with a mortar and pestle.  Just mash everything up and add to yogurt.  The consistency will depend on the age of your baby (chunkier textures are ok for babies over 8 months).

Try other fruits and spices too.  Cinnamon, grated nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice. Get creative to keep baby’s taste buds happy and engaged!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s bon appetit!

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Meet the Inspiration Behind “Masala Baby”

Hi Everyone,

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My inspiration: Kirina

This is a special week over here.  My sweet little girl, Kirina, turns 3 this week!  She is a vivacious, mischievous, fun-loving little soul.  She helps me cook (by helping I mean eating and making happy messes with her mixing bowl and scraps).  I love her with all my heart.

Kirina is the reason this Masala Baby project even happened.  She is my inspiration in many ways, but being inspired to create baby food and write a book about it is all because of her.

Before Kirina was born, I did a whole host of things.  I practiced law (defense litigation and government prosecution).  It was a career that sort of munched away at my soul bit by bit (or, bite by bite, I could say).  My beloved mom (my best friend and only real constant in my life) passed away in 2005 and I decided I just couldn’t practice law anymore.  I couldn’t live life doing something that left me empty every day.  Life, as I learned, was simply too short.  I sold my childhood home and moved to New York City, simply to start fresh.  I was alone, grief-stricken and without a real path in life.  I took a job at a law school and set out to figure out who I was again.

I discovered so many facets of myself in NYC.  Mainly through all the new relationships and sights and sounds of the great big city of possibilities.   The big sense I discovered? My sense of TASTE.  Of all things food and culture.  Vietnamese Pho a block away.  Thai curried noodles next door. Wine bars, fig and olive bars, Venezuelan arepa bars, gourmet cupcake trucks, waffle trucks, whole shops dedicated to one ingredient (bread! cheese! jam!), and even a whole restaurant devoted to 12 different types of macaroni and cheese.  I went on noodle tours and pizza tours and ate my way through the city, savoring each new discovery.  I fell in love not only with the tastes and creativity of the meals I ate, but also the fact that each meal was a gateway to a new culture.  I loved to learn about all the people, cuisines and customs of the world.  NYC allowed me to journey abroad without ever leaving the country.

I met my sweet husband a few years later, moved to New Jersey and had Kirina.  I never thought I would have a family ever again, but my love and my constant, my husband, brought me back that sense of family and life.  With Kirina’s birth (and baby Ela’s of course) our family was complete.  To this day I am amazed that these blessings have occurred in my life.  I am forever grateful for my family.

Career-wise, however, I was lost again.  I was in a new town, didn’t know anyone, and was home alone with a little one (home alone and scared!).  Whatever was I going to do with myself? As a new mom, I never knew what I was doing and the days felt long and lonely.  Yes, I had a beautiful baby girl, but I felt like I also needed an occupation of some sort.  Something to call my own.

Baby Food

When Kirina was ready to eat solids, I was so excited.  Here was someone I could feed! I could turn her into a foodie just like me and my husband.  I prepared some rice cereal from a box, just as the pediatrician recommended.  It looked and tasted like cardboard mush.  Kirina spit it out.  Day after day after eternal day.  What was I doing wrong? Why wouldn’t she eat? I tasted the mush we were feeding her and it was pretty disgusting. I couldn’t blame her refusal.  So I decided to try something else…something with flavor.  I took an avocado and put some cinnamon on it.  Boom! She ate it! Slurped it up! It was like magic!

Kirina discovering blueberries

Kirina discovering blueberries

 

This moment transformed my life.  As ridiculous as it might sound, that moment taught me that my little one needed foods with flavor.  Real food, not food from a box.  I remembered my mom, my love of cooking, my love of culture and my love of caring for my family.  It inspired me to research what babies around the world eat….to make meals with bold tastes….to experiment with new ingredients and spices and see what Kirina would eat.

We grew together, one spoon at a time, one meal at a time.

Slowly I discovered I had a new passion in life: baby food.  Making it.  Researching it.  Living it.  Yes, baby food.  Ask me ten years ago and I would have laughed, but creating recipes for little ones (especially my own) has breathed new life in me.  I love it!  It’s like I’ve found a new passion in life…the blending of all the culinary and cultural finds and experiences I’ve had.  This passion has led to my recipes, a possible book publication, blogs, and endless amounts of cooking and creating.

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Nurture your baby’s taste buds. Explore global cuisines, even when they are small.

In short, Kirina enabled me to find a new piece of myself.  Even through all the exhaustion, the self-doubt of staying at home (the self-craziness that goes along with it) and endless wanderings of what I wanted to do in life, Kirina managed to lead me to a new, potential career.  I’m still learning about the baby food business, and trying hard to freelance write, blog, and get a book published….it’s slow and it’s hard work, but I feel PASSIONATE about it.  And in all my years so far, it’s the one thing I’ve learned that is the key to success: love what you do.  And love who you are while doing it.  I wake up each day thinking about spicing up baby (and now toddler) food and how to teach parents to embrace different tastes and ingredients from around the world.  To nurture every taste bud and palate, one baby at a time.  It’s a fun feeling every day.

So thank you my dear baby Kirina.  Thank you for introducing me to myself again, and for helping me discover another side of me.  You’ve brought meaning into my life in more ways than I can count.  I love you for bringing joy, laughter and an extreme curiosity into the house.  For eating all my cooking (well, most of it anyway.  I still can’t get you to eat a potato).  For jumping on couches and mashing blueberries into your fingers.  For asking to snack on cumin seeds when you help me cook.  For trying faithfully to chop onions with me while I cook (me with a Wusthof, she with a plastic spoon that serves as her knife).

Thank for you being my Masala Baby and inspiration on this culinary and life adventure.  Happy THIRD Birthday my love!

Mommy loves you. xoxo

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From Kirina’s highchair to your little one’s bon appetit!

 

 

From farm to highchair!

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Happy Summer everyone!!

Oh my goodness, what FUN we have had here in the Saini household lately! There are sooo many great fruits and vegetables in season right now, I can’t even contain my enthusiasm.  Being a country mouse myself (I grew up in New Hartford, NY, a beloved little town near rolling hills and lots of farmland) I grew up picking strawberries with my mom in June and blueberries with my dear friend Meigan and her mom in August.  Come Fall, we all went nuts for apples and freshly pressed cider (back in the day when it wasn’t pasteurized and tasted sooo good!). My mom had her own vegetable garden, full of tomatoes and green peppers.  What happy memories they were.

My mom passed away 8 years ago and it is now a bittersweet thing to do, but I was determined to pass this love of farm-picked fruits and vegetables to my little Kirina.  There is something so pure and precious about teaching a child where their food comes from.  I think it made Kirina enjoy the food more because she had a hand in picking it.  The peas, pictured above, were such fun to pick.  We’ve kept them in a bowl in the kitchen and Kirina grabs them now and then to munch, having fun peeling away the pods and searching for the sweet peas inside.  It’s pretty fun to watch her.

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Kirina picking out peas

Freshly picked!

Freshly picked!

Peas with a Hint of Mint

     Way back when (ok, not that way back, two years ago) when I was pureeing baby food I took the freshly picked peas, shucked and steamed them, and blended them with a bit of fresh mint leaves.  It was simple and divine.  And different! Peas adapt well to a whole array of seasonings, so be sure to try out different ones–oregano, basil, even a pinch of ground black pepper.  The sweetness of the peas, particularly when they are young and freshly picked, makes it a great vehicle for introducing new spices to your little one.

   Am looking forward to more summertime farm finds.  And little Ela is almost four months old! That means she will be ready for solids soon.  Can’t wait to introduce her to the tastes of the world.

From Kirina’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetite!

Mango Season Is Here!

A spoonful of the season

A spoonful of the season

Hello Everyone,

MANGOS! Or is it mangoes with an “e?”  Jury is still out on that one (grammar folks help out on this one).  Anyway, mango season is upon us! Every April, May and June this wonderful season takes over, particularly for Indian and Indian-American households who are mango-crazy.  When I say crazy, I mean crazy! Whole festivals are created around this fruit in India.  It is sometimes called the hundred days of madness, in fact, in reference to the brief amount of time this prized fruit is in season.

My parents came here in the 1970’s and one of the things they missed most was the Indian mango.  My mom would tell me stories about how my grandmother would spend time pickling unripe mangoes, setting the jars out on the veranda so that the hot Indian sun would work its magic, heating the jars and preserving the newly jarred jewels.  I also have childhood memories of my parents, once they finally found mangos in this country, eating the juicy, fleshy, fruit over the sink because it was so messy! Every Indian-American kid probably has the same memory.

But it isn’t just Indian folks who have a fondness for the fruit.  Caribbean and Mexican cultures adore the fruit as well.  The only debate is over which mangos are tastier.  True Indian mangos, called Alphonso mangos, have been denied an entry visa for years from the US government (something to do with pesky insects they carried) until recently (they can be found for way too much money now in Indian grocery stores).  Other mangos, like the Kent and Ataulfo varieties are more commonly found in US markets and are grown in Florida and Mexico.  These are just as tasty when ripe…look for sweet-smelling, soft fruit when selecting.

Ripe Mango

Baby Food

If your baby is lucky enough to be starting solid foods during mango season, this is an amazing fruit to try! Simply cut into chunks and blend until smooth.

Mr. Teacup takes a taste of mango saffron puree.

Adding Flavor to Baby’s Food with Saffron

What could be better than simply mangos? Adding a pinch of saffron!  Saffron is a mild, gentle, but flavorful spice that comes from a special orchid flower.  It is used in everything from warmed bedtime milk, to Indian and Middle Eastern desserts to the famous Spanish Paella (it is what gives paella its bright orange color).

Saffron and mango are buddies…they taste amazing together.  Dissolve a few saffron threads in a few teaspoons of warm water.  You will notice the color coming out.  Add this to your mango chunks when blending and your puree will be imparted with a beautiful, exotic saffron perfume.  It is a wonderful way to introduce your baby to a new spice.  Kirina loved this as a baby and I can’t wait to try it on Ela when she is ready to start solids.

 

For toddlers, you can add the mango-saffron puree to a cup of yogurt in a bowl, or blend to make a smoothie.  YUM!

Keep those taste buds growing!  With summer upon us and fruits coming into season it is a fun time to experiment and introduce new flavors to your little one.

From Kirina’s high chair to your little one’s, bon appetite!